Atletico - The GK Factory
Despite enjoying a largely successful period of their history, Los Rojiblancos have been forced to endure the insufferable superiority complex from their city rivals Real, who up until 2019, enjoyed a period of dominance in Europe in which they have beaten Atletico in the final twice.
One area that Real cannot possibly claim supremacy is the defensive side of their game. This season in particular they have looked suspect at best at the back, whilst Diego Simeone has maintained his style that has made Atletico virtually impenetrable.
This is no small part down to the goalkeeping talent they have nurtured since the turn of the century which includes current Real ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois, who much to the delight of the red and white half of the city, has been a shadow of him former self since his move to the Bernabeu.
Courtois’ three-year loan spell with Atletico could not have been so different, part of their superb title-winning triumph in the 2013/14 season and their run to the Champions League final, built on a solid foundation with the young Belgian as a lynchpin
Following his outstanding contribution to Atletico’s unlikely success, Courtois was called back to Chelsea, where he again enjoyed league winning seasons in 2014/15 and 2016/17.
The gangly Belgian was David De Gea’s successor at the late Vicente Calderon Stadium, who himself, has made a name for himself in England over the past 7 years at Manchester United and is a Premier League winner
Unlike Courtois, De Gea is a product of Atletico’s academy, starting his rise up the youth ranks at the age of 13, making his first-team debut at the tender of 18 in a Champions League game and quickly established himself as first choice at the Vicente Calderon and started in the side that thrashed Fulham 4-0 in the Europa League final.
After a couple of years of speculation, De Gea made his move to one of the European heavyweights of the time, Manchester United in 2011 for a reported £18 million. Despite their well-documented decline since, he has been a shining light in an otherwise grim period for the Red Devils.
De Gea isn’t the only academy graduate to be sold for a healthy profit. Second choice to De Gea, Roberto joined Benfica for €8.5 million in the summer of 2010. Despite his big money (at the time) move, Roberto has not enjoyed the same level of success as his counterpart and has raised a few eyebrows with his stuttering performances with West Ham.
Diego Simeone who managed both De Gea and Courtois, has been able to replace his young starlets with a man befitting of his predecessors’ gloves. Remarkably Oblak was the most expensive goalkeeper in La Liga history when signing from Benfica for a pretty modest £14 million in the summer of 2014.
The Slovenian had only been Benfica’s first choice for the second half of the previous season, but from the off his record-breaking fee was vindicated and he has been a mainstay in the side ever since, appearing 153 times.
His stock is such that he signed a 5-year contract last season and was this year nominated for the inaugural edition of the Yashin award, the Ballon D'Or of goalkeepers.
Atletico’s knack of producing or unearthing world class goalkeeping talent does not look to be ceasing anytime soon.